Some places just feel like home and some people just seem like family. That’s how members feel about Trinity United Methodist Church at 1814 Wharton St. in South Philadelphia.
There you’ll find a place to worship freely but also a place where you can shake off the burdens and hardships of the world, let go of any pretense and feel welcomed among the flock just as you are.
Led by the husband and wife pastoral team of Rev. Myra J. Maxwell, pastor, and Rev. Gary Maxwell Sr., co-pastor, Trinity United purposely seeks to be a place where there is fellowship in the spirit, edification of the body of Christ, holistic ministry and outreach to the community.
“This church is a busy church. This church is a community oriented and focused church so we try to open our doors and be involved in as much work in the community as we possibly can,” Myra Maxwell said.
“We’re not just here for the spiritual nurturing, but we’re also here for the community,” she said. “Church is part of the community.”
Being thus minded, Trinity United’s doors are almost always open and activities from community meetings, substance abuse counseling, clothing distribution for those in need and a wide array of other programs and services take place throughout the week at the church.
“We want to make sure that our doors are welcoming and open for other people to come join, not just for worship service,” she said.
The needs of the South Philadelphia community, as well as surrounding areas, are many and Trinity United therefore offers a variety of ministries designed to meet those needs in the spirit of Christ, such as the Drug-Free Communities ministry where youth who have experienced trauma or have been affected by drug or alcohol addiction can receive guidance and counseling or just be heard.
“We host those types of events and we always host any type of community event, of course the regular weddings and things like that most churches host, but we just pride ourselves on being connected to the community so we’re very excited about the work that we do,” said Maxwell.
“We’re hands-on, so we want to be out in the community. I probably travel more in the community than a lot of pastors, but I love being out there so it’s really important to me.”
Towana Hoggard, a member of Trinity United for more than 30 years, began attending with her mother.
“This was a family church, everyone was family-connected and this was a church that was about the Lord,” said Hoggard when asked what first attracted her to the church three decades ago.
“It was a church about doing positive things in the community,” she said.
Hoggard said that Trinity United Methodist was not only a loving, family church but one in which the members worked toward coming together in the unity of Christ.
“Everyone here works to build up one another in the Lord,” said Hoggard.
“The people here are everyday people, people who are hardworking and dedicated to the Lord who are working on building their relationship with God and showing love.”
Lawrence Tucker said he has been a member of the church for about three years and when asked what drew him to Trinity United, Tucker said simply: “The spirit of the Lord.”
“The spirit of the Lord told me that this is where I need to be, praising him and giving him honor,” Tucker said.
Once Tucker joined the church, he said he found out a few things:
“I found I could shout and get my praise on, praise the Lord spiritually and be at peace with the people and with God,” he said.
And the pastor?
“The pastor is a God-loving pastor who puts God before everything. I love my pastor and I love my church and I love the Lord.”
Maintaining the functions of such an active and busy church is quite a challenge, but Maxwell said she and her husband, the co-pastor, maintain a healthy balance between responsibilities of church and home.
“I know when to sit down. My husband is very adamant that I take care of myself, so we have family time and family is very close,” she said.
The Maxwells have five children and 11 grandchildren who even take vacations together.
“But on certain days it’s go home, take care of your family and spend quality time with my husband who [has] supported me in ministry,” she said.
Maxwell described the congregation of Trinity United as “unique.”
“We’re in South Philadelphia but we have members that come from all over the city, which is very interesting.”
They are also distinctive in their dedication to service and ministry, she said.
“I think that the personality of our people is that they are ready to serve, they are servants. They realize that there are needs and they really, genuinely want to reach out to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the people around us, not just in our congregation but also outside the congregation.”
Maxwell said that often the members themselves will identify community needs and then take the initiative to discover resources and means to help meet those needs.
“Whatever the needs, they [the congregation] say, ‘Let’s try to get it for them.’”
Not only will Trinity United feed, clothe and otherwise provide assistance for the local community, but one ministry is sending clothing as far as Africa to a small village whose needs were identified by a member of the church.
Trinity United Methodist Church is a gospel preaching and teaching church that feeds the soul but doesn’t stop there. Empty stomachs are fed, naked backs are clothed and those in crisis find refuge.